A new service offering non rights-protected digital music is set to debut next week.
MP3.com founder and head of desktop Linux company Linspire, Michael Robertson, will announce the service - MP3tunes - on Thursday next week.
Own what you buy
MP3tunes will not use a format with digital rights management (DRM) technology to copy-protect the tracks it sells for download, but instead will use the popular MP3 format without DRM, Robertson said in an interview.
At launch, MP3tunes will offer a few hundred thousand tracks from independent labels and artists at a cost of $0.88 per track or $8.88 per album, Robertson said. MP3tunes has yet to approach the major record labels, he said.
Freedom of use, consumer choice
Because the tracks will be offered in MP3 format, buyers can use the music they purchase on virtually any digital music player or computer, as well as make unlimited copies of their songs and burn their music onto CD, Robertson said. Most other online music sellers restrict what users can do with their songs.
"I don't want a world where every piece of music or every device I buy has a fruit logo on it," Robertson said, referring to Apple. The computer vendor has been criticized for using DRM technology so tracks bought in its iTunes music store can be played only on its iPod portable media player and not on any other portable music player.
"I am more interested in a world where consumers have a choice: They can choose any portable player, any piece of software, any operating system, and listen to their music," Robertson said. "That is what MP3 brings."
Major labels? Not at present
Robertson is hopeful that major record labels will want to offer their music through MP3tunes even though the service lacks copyright protection: "Obviously that would be a change from where they are at. They have licensed their music to DRM-based systems, but not to non-DRM-based systems. We are trying to push the envelope."
In addition to the music download service, Robertson next week plans to unveil a new device called the MP3beamer. The beamer will be a hub for digital music that can be connected to a home stereo and other devices as well as let consumers access their music from multiple locations, Robertson said.
Robertson founded MP3.com in 1997. The site came under attack from the record industry for a service that allowed users to get online access to music they owned on CDs. MP3.com was ultimately sold to Vivendi Universal in 2001 in a deal valued at $372 million, a windfall for Robertson.